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318                                                                              fi. POLEVOI
above as if it had been trampled down by a vast herd-
all raced past like the scenes in a cinema film, and it
seemed as though this film were endless.
All this testified to the stubborn and sanguinary nature
of the fighting that had raged here, to the heavy losses
sustained and to the magnitude of the victory achieved.
The tanks had left innumerable double, criss-cross
tracks all over the wide expanse, leading on and on deep
into the enemy's positions, right to the horizon, as if a
vast herd of strange animals had stampeded across the
fields southward, trampling down everything in their
way. Endless columns of motorised artillery, fuel tanks,
huge mobile, tractor-drawn repair shops, and covered
lorries followed in the trail of the tanks, leaving grey tails
of dust that were visible in the distance. From the air it
seemed that these columns were moving at a snail's pace;
and when the fighter planes rose to a greater height all
this looked like an army of ants crawling along a forest
track in the spring.
Diving into these tails of dust that rose high in the
still air as if diving into clouds, the fighter planes flew
over the columns to the leading jeeps, in which, evidently,
the commanders of the tank force were riding. The sky
over the columns was clear of the enemy, and in the
distance, on the hazy horizon, irregular puffs of the smoke
of battle were already to be seen. The group turned back,
spiralling in the sky like a toy kite. At that moment Alexei
saw right on the horizon, first one, and then a whole swarm
of dark specks floating low over the ground, Germans!
They too flew hugging the ground, obviously aiming at
the tails of dust that were visible in the reddish, weed-
covered fields. Alexei instinctively glanced round. His
follower was behind him, keeping as close to him as he
He strained his ears and heard a distant voice:
"I am Sea-Gull   two, Fedotov;   I am   Sea-Gull  two,
Fedotov, Attention! Follow me!"
Discipline in the air, where the airman's nerves are
strained to the utmost, is such that he sometimes carries
out his commander's intentions even before the latter
has finished his command. Before the next command was
heard amidst the whining and buzzing, the entire group